Volunteering is the New Racing December 14 2016, 1 Comment
Paying it Forward
Running and cycling are individual sports. You train and race to get a specific placement number or time by your name. You start out with individual goals, but as you meet people, you find a sense of community. I find, more often than not, that is the community that keeps bringing me back to sport and not a desire for me to get a specific time or place in a race. Over time, I’ve evolved from being an individual participant to wanting to help others and foster a sense of community amongst my fellow athletes. The focus shifted from “me” and seeing how I improved to “we” and helping others gain confidence in a new sport, make friends, and feel included. It’s actually become a driving focus and I now seek out opportunities to help people out or provide a friendly face when out training or racing. If you’ve ever experienced someone helping you out or maybe saying a nice thing along the way, then it’s time to pay it forward and do the same out in your community. Here are some suggestions:
- Go to races and spectate. Do you have friends racing at an event that you’re not signed up for? Go and cheer your friends on at a race! Make it even more fun with costumes and signs! I will usually make signs and put them out in lonely parts of the course and then place myself in a more central part of the race to maximize my face time with athletes. You’d be surprised how a friendly face or word can lift up an athlete and propel them for miles! Bonus points if you also have a cooler full of cold beer for post-race refreshments.
- Volunteer at races. Are you looking for a simple one time way to help out? Find a local race and volunteer at it. Here in Denver, we have many race organizers who offer you a discount for a cheap entry to a future race. By volunteering, you get good future racing karma AND a cheap future entry. Win win!!
- Help with a specific group that interests you. Are you excited about helping a bunch of new people learn how to mountain bike? Maybe it’s helping a specific group of people, like veterans, women athletes, special-needs athletes, kids? Find something that really interests you and find a group that aligns with your interests and see how you can become involved. You’ll gain a new perspective on sport and help out a group of athletes in meeting their goals.
- Volunteer as a training coordinator. Have you been participating in a local training group’s activities? Pay it forward by coordinating some training sessions! You can make your commitment a simple one time deal where you lead a group of runners on your favorite trail or you can make it a season-long commitment by organizing an entire season. There are MANY groups that need help (run stores, running clubs, tri clubs, mountain bike groups) and all it takes is some enthusiasm, organization, and good communication skills. Don’t feel like you have to be an expert to be a coordinator either – most groups just want someone to organize things and be a friendly face.
- Sign up to be a leader in a local club. Have you been an active member in a club for a while? Do you want an even bigger role in helping groups out? Consider becoming a club leader. This usually involves nominating yourself for a club position that interests you and becoming a Board Member. This is a heavier commitment with higher visibility but also has a larger impact on a group of people.
No matter your commitment level, I challenge each one of you to go out and make a positive impact in your community. It could be something as simple as a smile or kind word to a fellow participate or something more complicated like helping a bunch of beginner runners learn how to run on trails.